Tag Archive: rudder

A barge fishing kayak is not a microskiff

Anyone observing the evolution of the common fishing kayak in the past decade has noticed that the high-end tier (not better, just more expensive) of this class of watercraft has grown bigger, that is longer and excessively wider.

Why is that? -The main drive has been the need to provide fishermen with more stability, as many of them have come to realize that sitting for hours in an unstable craft isn’t fun, and certainly not productive. After all, reeling in and landing a big fish on board is hard work, and when you work hard you don’t want to worry about capsizing your boat, do you?

As for the increase in length, it was the result of two problems: The first is the decrease in tracking capability as the kayak gets wider –  Short and wide (‘chubby’) mono-hull kayaks track more poorly, and outfitting them with rudders makes them less attractive to users as well as more expensive. The second problems is the need to offer more buoyancy, since kayaks that offer too little buoyancy ride too low on the water, and not many people like to get constantly splashed by waves and even just eddies.

So SOT and sit-in fishing kayaks have grown bigger and heavier, and this is how the term ‘barge kayak’ was born (see article: http://wavewalk.com/blog/2011/04/15/the-barge-a-new-class-of-fishing-kayak/. This increase in overall size, and especially the increase in width made those kayaks harder to paddle, this decreasing their suitability for long fishing trips. In addition, some models have become so heavy that car topping them became nearly impossible for one person.
Some anglers had hoped that pedal driven kayaks would solve the propulsion issue, but most of them got disappointed, mainly due to an increase in ergonomic problems, and mostly back pain and premature fatigue. Moreover, the pedal drive made ordinary fishing kayaks heavier for car topping, and it turned the optional rudder into an absolute necessity.
At this point, some owners of those big and bulky kayaks started transporting them on trailers, which was in a way a sign of defeat, as anyone can understand that a kayak that must be towed on a trailer defeats the purpose of both kayaking and kayak fishing.

Once the term ‘barge’ was coined, the next logical step was to compare those huge and cumbersome kayaks to small skiffs, and ask the question “if this kayak is already almost as big as a small skiff, why not fish out of a real skiff?” – a good question indeed, to which vendors offered yet another propulsion solution: electric trolling motors.
Considering the fact that the combined weight of an electric trolling motor and battery can top 70 lbs, as well as the fact that electric trolling motors offer a limited range of travel, this solution was no match for small skiffs outfitted with gas outboard motors.
From the standpoint of a fisherman who fishes out of small motorboats, an electric SOT and sit-in fishing kayak was not even something worth considering – a sub par solution, and even more so because all those huge kayaks are not really suitable for stand up fishing as far as normal people fishing in real world conditions are concerned.

In other words, the SOT, sit-in and hybrid fishing kayaks hit a brick wall on their way to replace the small motorized skiff, known as ‘Microskiff’. The solution to the challenge of ‘stay small and get motorized’ came from the W kayak, which is perfectly suitable for motorizing with small outboards, and offers existing owners of small motorboats a way to downsize and upgrade at the same time, as the motorized W kayak (a.k.a. personal microskiff) is not just a smaller microskiff or a better fishing kayak – it is a new class of small watercraft with special attributes, offering better performance and convenience, and a whole new level of fishability.

Effective Kayak Steering Without A Rudder

-“Steering a kayak with a rudder?!?”
If you told an Inuit that you need a rudder to steer your kayak, they’d be very surprised, since aboriginal kayaks did not feature such accessories.
Rudders were introduced to modern kayaks by designers and manufacturers who feared their clients wouldn’t be able to go where they needed, because their kayaks don’t track well, especially in strong wind.
This is not a mere matter of convenience, but of safety as well: A kayak that doesn’t track well isn’t safe, since it’s hard to paddle, and might prevent its user from getting back to shore.
Why are conventional modern kayaks, and especially fishing kayaks so hard paddle effectively without a rudder? The answer is simple: These SOT, sit-in, and ‘hybrid’ kayaks are ‘barges”, namely too wide and slow to go in a straight line, and they don’t react well to wind. They are designed to offer stability, within the limited capabilities of the mono-hull design, and the only way this is possible is by making the kayak too wide to track effectively, or be paddled efficiently.

The problem of tracking in strong wind and other adverse conditions is solved perfectly in the W kayak design, due to the combination of two factors:

  1. The two thin, parallel hulls make the W kayak track well to begin with, and –
  2. The paddler can relocate at will fore and aft, along the longitudinal seat named saddle. By doing so, they change the location of the vessel’s center of gravity, and can make it point at will either into the wind, or outward

Here is how this tracking and steering by relocation is done:

More info on rudders in fishing kayaks >>

More info on fishing kayaks’ steering and tracking in strong wind >>

Leg Propulsion For Fishing Kayaks

Using your legs for propelling any human powered vehicle offers the advantage of relying on a bigger, more powerful set of muscles than our arms. Our legs are also good in balancing, if given a chance to perform this job.

Currently, three manufacturers offer pedal drives for fishing kayaks.
Two of these devices feature rotary paddles and propellers, which makes more sense than the third one that features push pedals and wings flapping from side to side as a propeller.
In any case, pedal drives do not provide a suitable answer for touring and fishing kayaks, since operating involves a variety of problems starting from reduced stability and control over the kayak, reduced maneuverability and the loss of the ability to travel in shallow water, to more important, ergonomic problems that include increased discomfort and back pain.
More about pedal drives for fishing kayaks

So far, no one has ever seen a reason to outfit their W kayak with a pedal drive, for pretty obvious reasons. However, should anyone be interested to tinker with such project, the following pedal drive setup seems applicable to W kayaks,

rotary pedal drive for fishing kayak


More ideas, information and opinions about this pedal drive setup can be found in the comments section of the article about pedal drives recommended in the previous paragraph.

Here is another direction that seems applicable to W kayaks:

It seems like there used to be such a commercial product on the market several years ago, but we were unable to trace it. More information about it would be appreciated.
This particular setup is based on a crank shaft being used for pedaling and activating both paddle wheels at the same time. Therefore, the operator has to steer by means of a hand activated rudder (or paddle), which is a problem similar to the one facing kayak anglers attempting to operate a commercial fishing kayak pedal drive of the above mentioned types.
The rotation of the paddle wheels on the boat’s sides somehow compensates the operator for the initial loss of stability resulting from raising their feet in the air. In this regard, this seemingly clumsy setup is not as bad as the pedal drives featuring in fishing kayaks.
As far as shallow water mobility is concerned , this setup seems to be less inadequate than the above mentioned kayak pedal drives, and it looks like removing entangled seaweed from its blades is not complicated as it is with those kayak pedal drives.
Obviously, the paddle wheels add unwanted weight to the boat, and the recumbent position is not ideal for pedaling, as explained in the article mentioned in the first section.
In Fishability terms, the paddle wheels are similar to outriggers, in the sense that they can easily snag your fishing lines.

Having said that, if the reader feels like trying to implement such concept in their canoe, kayak or W kayak, they may want to consider separating the rotation of the two paddle wheels, namely have each leg rotate the paddle wheel on its own side – independently from what the other leg is doing. Such version would solve the steering problem created by relying on one’s legs for propulsion rather than on a paddle, eliminate the need to operate a unwanted rudder, and add both to the tracking and steering capabilities of the boat.

The Fishing Kayak Rudder – How Bad Is It, Really?

It’s really bad!

Rudders have become a necessity in modern SOT, sit-in, and hybrid fishing kayaks, simply because most of these kayaks have become so wide and hard to paddle (I.E. ‘barges’) that they lost the ability to track properly, which is and essential requirement from any boat.

Kayak manufacturers have constantly increased the width of the fishing kayaks they offer, as a response to the demand for more stability. But this change comes at a price of a decrease in speed, control, and tracking capability that’s often coupled with lackluster performance in maneuverability.

In comparison, no W-kayak paddler or angler has ever felt the need for a rudder for paddling. This is a particularly interesting fact, considering the W-kayak is shorter than most kayaks out there, and considering the fact it’s used for a multitude of applications in a wide range of aquatic environments, including long trips in the ocean, big lakes and wide rivers, where a kayak is required to perform well in tracking terms.

What’s wrong with rudders?

Well, to begin with, they cost extra money, and better rudders are very expensive.

More importantly, they slow down your kayak by 10% in average, according to serious speed research performed on kayaks in tow-tanks.

And most importantly, rudders are  often cumbersome and difficult to handle. Handling them requires your attention and the use of one of your hands, or of both your feet, and that’s when there are other things you’d like to do when you’re in your kayak, such as paddling or fishing, rather than steering.

On top of these issues, and that’s really too bad for paddlers and fishermen who go in shallow water, rudders tend to get stuck in the bottom, bump into rocks or branches down there, and get entangled in sea weed, so they limit your range of paddling and fishing in areas that are considered promising for both these activities.

Besides, like any mechanical device, rudder systems can break, and their cables can get jammed or torn.  If such a problem occurs, it can become anywhere between unpleasant and hazardous, especially if you find yourself far from shore, and if weather is getting nasty, the wind is picking up, it’s getting dark, the tide is getting strong etc.  -Sounds too scary? Remember rule number one in kayaking is ‘Stuff Happens’… and it can happen to you!

In sum, rudders are yet another necessary evil imposed on the sit-in, hybrid and SOT kayak anglers, while W-kayakers and kayak anglers should be thankful they need neither purchase nor use such awkward devices.

More about kayak speed >>